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June 29, 2018

Volume 7 Issue 3

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EVs to Impact Lubricant Performance

Electric vehicles are on the rise, but internal combustion engines will continue to dominate vehicle populations for the foreseeable future, meaning lubricant suppliers need to expand product portfolios, industry insiders said at a conference this week.

“ICEs will remain the dominant powertrain choice toward 2025,” Ohashi Yuzuru, a partner at Roland Berger consultancy, told the ICIS Asian Base Oils & Lubricants Conference here on Wednesday.

Electric vehicles, including hybrids and plug-ins, will have about 12 percent to 25 percent share of global new car sales by 2025, he estimated.

In China, electric vehicles (not including hybrids) were 1.7 percent of the vehicle population in 2017 and were expected to reach 10 percent in 2030. “Heavy-duty trucks are not expected to switch to electric or hybrid as quickly as other commercial vehicles, and commercial adoption of electric vehicles will be slower than passenger cars,” said Robin Wang , Lubrizol Corp.’s marketing manager for China.

According to Ohashi, penetration of EVs has been slow for several reasons. First, the used car market has had difficulty determining the residual value of EVs.

Second, the number of parking spaces needed is amplified because of the short driving ranges of these cars and high battery costs, but “parking space at home is becoming a luxury, and setting up charging stations in streets is difficult due to security and other reasons,” he posited.  Additionally, “EVs are not for cold weather. You need heaters, and that will consume more battery power,” he added.

Despite these barriers, electric vehicles will change the mobility landscape.

“There are so much uncertainties after [the] year 2025, and we believe there are several mobility scenarios, and we don’t believe one powertrain will dominate the world,” said Ohashi. “There will be many different variations of vehicles for different purposes, and this will impact the lubricant business.”

He suggested lubrication demands, practices and products will be greatly impacted by trends such as shared mobility, high utilization rates of some vehicles, autonomous transportation like robot taxi cabs, and growth in personalized or purpose-built vehicles used within living spaces or work spaces or for purposes such as getting to medical checkups.

“Utilization will significantly increase in the case of shared mobility, increasing to 24 hours [per day] usage,” he said. As a result, the lifespan of the vehicle will shorten, and highly durable parts will be needed.

To meet the different life cycles of vehicles, lubricant blenders should consider expanding portfolios to add products with super durability or that are low cost and designed to be changed every one or two weeks. OEMs and service providers should develop ways to speed the process of oil changes in order to reduce vehicle downtime, he suggested.

“Currently it is the OEMs who decide the powertrain technology and design. But in the new mobility world, it will be the agents and service providers who will define how vehicles behave and [what they] look like. For example, there could be Uber-certified cars,” he said.

“The profit pool will shift from selling things to providing services, and new players will be coming in as increased importance of service changes the industry value chain,” Ohashi predicted.